ST. LOUIS -- Fielding the Cardinals' Game 4 win over the Padres on a short hop ...

In < 25 words ...
After a first-inning hiccup, Chris Carpenter displayed ace-quality stuff. The Cardinals broke it open with four sixth-inning runs.

Frozen moment
With one out and Albert Pujols on first base in the sixth, Juan Encarnacion laced a triple into the right-field corner, scoring Pujols and breaking a 2-2 tie.

Big numbers
Five. This will mark the Redbirds' fifth time in seven years and third straight October they have reached the National League Championship Series.

Game balls
Chris Carpenter, four. Helped by a small strike zone, the Padres drew three first-inning walks and scored twice off the Redbirds ace. He regrouped and faced two over the minimum through the next six frames.

Ronnie Belliard, four. The Cleveland import continued his hot hitting, reaching base twice and driving in the first two Cardinals runs with a single. He also delivered several fine plays at second base.

Juan Encarnacion, three. After a terrible Game 3, the outfielder responded with a tiebreaking triple and a walk that set up Belliard's first-inning hit.

Yadier Molina, three. The light-hitting catcher was an offensive machine in Game 4, collecting two hits. He also threw out the ever-dangerous Dave Roberts trying to steal.

Scott Spiezio, three. The veteran utilityman filled in ably for Scott Rolen at third base, delivering a key sixth-inning RBI single and scoring a run.

Sense of October
Rarely does the Busch Stadium crowd chant "Spiezio, Spiezio, Spiezio" when the switch-hitter bats. The playoffs, though, especially at Busch Stadium, yield such moments. The crowd was constantly in the game, even providing stadium ovations for solid defensive plays.

Lines of the Game
Hitting
Cardinals' sixth inning
6 AB, 3 H, 3B, BB, HBP, sac bunt, fielder's choice
Comment: The Cardinals scored in nearly every way possible during the frame, turning a tie game into an NLDS clincher.

Pitching
Chris Carpenter
7-plus IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 5 K, 3 BB
Comment: When Carpenter works deep into a game, the Cardinals are one of the game's best teams.

Next step
In a rematch of 2000, the Cardinals will travel to New York for the NLCS. Jeff Weaver, fresh off five shutout innings in Game 2, will likely take the ball for the Redbirds in the opener on Wednesday.